Keeping students in education

Can you disprove this? Students participating in clubs and societies are less likely to complete their course of study.

This guide is suitable for institutions with a relatively high drop-out (or non-completion) rate.



Participation – means membership of clubs and societies.

Clubs and societies – any student group that you have membership records for.

Probability to complete their course of study – evidenced by actual drop-out rates and testimony from individuals about the extent to which their thoughts about continuing their course were influenced by their role in their club / society.


Part A. Quantitative – build the argument

Data from the institution can tell you who has not finished their course of study, ideally over the last 3-5 years to increase sample size.

If necessary, clean it and simplify it as much as you can. For example by deleting people deferring or having a break from their studies.

Match data entries against your own records of clubs and societies membership. This may need to be done at the institution's side to ensure anonymity in the data, and therefore compliance with the law. This will depend on your local context, we suggest asking your institution for advice.

How likely is any individual to drop out? (Number of students not completing divided by entire student body)

How likely is an individual in club/society membership to drop out? (Number of students dropping out who are members divided by numbers of students who are members)

How do those two numbers compare? Is there a significant difference?


Part B. Qualitative – how does your students’ unions contribute?

Interview at least 5 club/soc members near graduation about their experience.

  • How did you find your course? Were there ever difficult times?
  • What helped you get through it? How so?

Interview at least 5 students who weren’t members near graduation about their experience.

  • Why did you drop out?
  • What helped you get through it? How so?

What trends are in their responses? How did being a member of a club and society figure?

How do the responses from the two groups compare?


Advanced questions

How can you differentiate between those who are actively taking part and those who have a membership but rarely or never participate?

What demographics are most likely to drop out according to institutional data? How does the leadership of clubs and societies reflect that?

In what ways are students made more capable to complete their course through their leadership roles in clubs and societies? (e.g. more resilient, better at time management, better support networks)


Existing literature

Teesside SU -


Example posters from students' unions

Liverpool Hope Students' Union

Staffordshire University Students' Union

Teesside University Students' Union



(If you develop an interview template, please send it in for others to use